The new recommendation, issued by the Public Health Agency, states: “You should, on weekdays 7-9am and 4-6pm, use a face mask when travelling on public transport where a seated ticket is not offered.”
It comes into force on January 7th and applies to people born 2004 and earlier.
It will primarily be up to each passenger to bring their own face mask, “preferably of good quality, that is to say CE-marked”, stated the Public Health Agency as it presented the new recommendation on Wednesday.
But public transport operators are recommended to provide face masks for passengers who don’t have their own, and inform passengers how and when to wear their mask.
The new guidelines apply nationwide, not just in major cities.
Sweden also asks everyone to avoid public transport if they can, especially at rush hour and modes of transport where it is not possible book a seat. These recommendations will continue to apply after January 7th.
“It is more effective to keep your distance than to be close to others and wear a face mask. But we know that public transport involves situations where crowding can be difficult to avoid despite the recommendation to first and foremost choose another means of transport. Face masks can then be useful,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell in a statement.
The new guidelines come almost two weeks after the Swedish government first announced that such guidelines would be introduced. Sweden was long one of few countries affected by a second wave of the coronavirus that did not recommend wearing face masks outside of healthcare settings, despite the WHO advising the use of face masks as a complementary measure in situations where it is not possible to keep physical distance to others.
The WHO states on its website: “Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against Covid-19.
“If Covid-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work. Do it all!”
The Public Health Agency has previously argued that although masks can work in preventing infection, for example in the case of a local outbreak, there is a lack of conclusive scientific proof that it can stem an outbreak on a wider scale, arguing that it might make people comply less with other guidelines such as social distancing.
When The Local asked readers (international residents in Sweden) in November about coronavirus measures that they would like to see in Sweden, well over half of the respondents (152 readers) said they would appreciate mask-wearing being either mandated or recommended.